Vegetable Sambar | Unique recipe for best taste

Sambar, is a South Indian spicy and tangy stew made with lentil/split yellow pigeon peas, vegetables, spices, herbs. Vegetable Sambar is a delicious combo of dal and vegetables that is filled with nutrients.

Being a South Indian, I have been having sambar since childhood. I guess, by now, sambar runs in my blood too. LoL!

Because of the South Indian restaurants/tiffin centers around the globe, sambar is popular among many. But, if you are new to South Indian cuisine and unaware of sambar.

Vegetable Sambar

What is Sambar?

Sambar is a South Indian stew made with lentils/split yellow pigeon peas, vegetables, tamarind, herbs, spices, and a special spice powder called sambar powder.

Rice is a staple food of South Indians. So a side dish made with dal/lentils is a must every day. While there are many varieties made with dal, sambar is one of the frequently made side dishes. There is some magic in sambar, I can have it every day and still not get bored of it.

There are many varieties in sambar, but a basic sambar will contain a mix of one or two different vegetables, lentils/toor dal for its base, and tamarind, a special blend of spices called sambar powder.

This South Indian stew is a common dish served at tiffin centers in Hyderabad along with breakfast items like idli, dosa, vada, uttapam, pesarattu, upma, pongal, and the list goes on.

It is also commonly served with steamed rice, ghee, fried curd chilies, and papad. This is a heavenly combo.

Sambar powder is a key ingredient for an authentic flavor and aromatic sambar. It is a blend of aromatic whole spices. I will share the sambar powder recipe. If you are a bachelor or short of time to make sambar powder at home, you can use store-bought/readymade sambar powder. 

But, nothing beats the aroma of sambar powder made at home. You can make the sambar powder and store it for months. With the powder ready, it is very quick to make vegetable sambar anytime. 

Reasons to make this Vegetable Sambar:

  • This Mixed Vegetable Sambar is,
  • Healthy and nutritious
  • Easy to make
  • Protein Rich
  • Loaded with veggies, 
  • Make everyday meals special
  • Treat your guests to a special meal lunch/dinner.

About this recipe

In the South, every household has a different way of making sambar. Restaurants have a different way too. I have come across two common ways Sambar is made.

1. Lentils are cooked till mushy and then mashed. Later vegetables, mashed dal, tamarind pulp, sambar powder, and other spice powders are mixed together and simmered till the vegetables are cooked. In the end, tempering or tadka is added to sambar.

2. Vegetables are sauteed in the tempering. Later all the other ingredients are added and simmered till aromatic. I will share this recipe with you. 

The vegetable sambar recipe I will share is a very unique style of making vegetable sambar usually followed in some of the popular hotels, marriages, functions, and curry points in South India.

Of Course, this style of sambar making with sambar powder is slightly more potent and has a profound special taste which is very suitable for breakfast preparation and rice too. 

Just give this recipe a try and I’m sure you will fall in love and frequently make sambar at home.

Ingredients to make Vegetable Sambar

The ingredients we need to make vegetable sambar are easily available at any Indian supermarket/grocery store or online too.

Lentils/Split pigeon peas: There are different types of lentils available. Traditionally, toor dal, also called as arhar dal or tuvar dal is used. At home, you can also mix different dals like moong dal or masoor dal to increase the nutritional value and for additional health benefits.

Vegetables: Sambar is loaded with the goodness of vegetables. For me, the required vegetables are onions, drumsticks, cucumber, bottle gourd, carrot, radish, okra. There are many other vegetables you can add as per your choice.

You can make vegetable sambar with just one vegetable or mix vegetables of your choice to make mixed vegetable sambar.

I prefer to use fresh vegetables. However, you can opt for frozen vegetables too.

Tamarind pulp or paste: It is an important ingredient that adds tanginess to the dish.

Sambar Powder: This special spice mix is made with selected whole spices, lentils, rice grains, and a few other ingredients.

Oil and Ghee: Oil is used to saute the vegetables and ghee is added for aroma and taste.

Jaggery: This adds a mild sweetness to sambar. Also, add nutrients.

Tempering and other ingredients: You need methi/fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder, green chilies, garlic cloves, curry leaves, whole dry red chilies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, and coriander leaves.

How to make Sambar powder?

Sambar powder is easy to make at home. It is of the best quality and economical. The flavorful and aromatic powder can be made within 10-15mins. Make this sambar beforehand and store it for months. In the fridge, this powder keeps good for about 6 months. But, at room temperature, use it within 3 months. 

The ingredients I mentioned are for 2-3 people. As the quantity is less, I have roasted all the ingredients together. If you make the powder in a large quantity, I suggest dry roast each ingredient separately as the cooking time is different.

Ingredients to make sambar powder are –

The ingredients measurement mentioned is for less quantity of sambar powder. I do not suggest to make sambar powder in large quantity and store for months. The taste of the powder will not be the same as days pass by.

  • Coriander Seeds – 1tbsp
  • Chana Dal – 1tbsp
  • Urad Dal – 1tbsp
  • Pepper  – 2tsp
  • Rice – 1/2tbsp
  • Cinnamon – 1tsp
  • Green Cardamom – 3
  • Cumin Seeds – 1tsp
  • Methi Seeds – 1tsp
  • Mustard Seeds – 1tsp
  • Byadgi or Kashmiri Red Chillies – 10-15
  • Curry Leaves – 1Sprig
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2tsp
  • Hing – 1tsp

Take a wide pan/kadai. Add both the dals and roast on low flame for 2-3mins. Next add dry red chilies and continue to roast till dal change color. Remove in a plate.

Next add rest of the ingredients except turmeric powder and hing. Roast till aromatic. Remove in a plate. Let it cool completely. Take it into a mixie jar and grind along with dals and dry red chilies.

Now add turmeric powder and hing to the grided powder.

Remove it on a plate and let it cool completely. Take it into a mixie jar and grind it to a fine powder.

Homemade Sambar powder is ready. Store this freshly ground sambar powder in an airtight container only.

Now the special spice powder is ready, let’s see how to make vegetable sambar.

How to make Vegetable Sambar?

Cook the dal: Wash the toor dal well. In a pressure cooker, add the strained dal along with turmeric powder, oil/ghee, water, and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles or till done. Once dal is cooked, mash it with a wired whisk or back of the spoon and keep it aside.

Soak tamarind in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze well and strain the liquid.

In a pot or kadai, heat oil. When hot, add fenugreek seeds, crushed garlic, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Let them crackle. Take care, not to burn seeds.

Add dried red chilies and curry leaves. Fry for few seconds until leaves turn crisp. Next, add hing/asafoetida and give a good mix.

add tempering

Add onions and fry for a minute. Next, add all the vegetables of your choice and mix well. On high heat, saute for a minute.

Turn the flame to low and add turmeric powder. Saute for few seconds. Next, add chopped tomatoes and saute on high heat for 2-3 minutes or until they turn soft.

Add salt, red chili powder, and sambar powder. Saute on a medium flame for a minute. Add the squeezed tamarind water and water to the level of veggies.

Let the water boil, add boiled dal and mix well. Add extra water, depending on the consistency you prefer. Turn the flame to low and simmer for good 10-20 minutes or until the veggies are cooked but not mushy.

When it’s almost done, add jaggery, coriander powder, and a sprig or few curry leaves. This will add extra flavors to the sambar.

Add ghee/clarified butter and give a good mix. Lastly, add coriander leaves.

Vegetable Sambar is ready. Serve hot South Indian Sambar with hot rice, or idly or vada with extra ghee.

south indian lentil stew

Pro Tips

Cooking the Dal: Add little oil while pressure cooking the dal. It helps the dal to cook faster. Also, it avoids spillage.

If the cooker is small, don’t add excess water to the lentil as it will result in foaming and overflow from the sides.

Cook the dal well and mash till smooth for a better texture of the sambar.

Fresh curry leaves: Always prefer to use fresh curry leaves, they are aromatic and add a nice flavor to the sambar. Never use dry leaves. Adding them to sambar may spoil the taste, so you can skip if fresh is not available.

Taste: For the best sambar taste, it’s important to balance the sourness, sweetness, salt, and spiciness of the dish. Taste and add accordingly.

Consistency: Do not add more water and make the sambar thin. Medium consistency tastes with rice or breakfast items.

Serving suggestions

Hot steamed rice, a hot bowl of sambar, a downpour of ghee and fried papad or dried chilies is a soulful combination. It’s finger licking good.

Also, goes really well with South Indian breakfast items like hot idli, dosa, vada, uttapam, upma and pongal.

Storage Suggestions

At home, I make Sambar for 2 days for 2 reasons.

  1. Sambar tastes better the next day.
  2. No need to cook dal next day.

You can store the leftover sambar in fridge for 2-3 days. The consistency of sambar will thicken. Heat water, add the sambar and adjust consistency.

More Vegetarian recipes for you:

If you’ve tried this Vegetable Sambar Recipe, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! Feedback and suggestions are highly appreciated. Also, please share the recipes with your friends and family members.

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Recipe Card

Vegetable Sambar

Author: Santosh Allada
Vegetable Sambar is a South Indian stew made with lentils/split yellow pigeon peas, vegetables, tamarind, herbs, spices, and a special spice powder called sambar powder. Usually served with idly, dosa, uttapam, pongal, or steamed rice.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Andhra, Indian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

For the Tamarind pulp

  • lemon size Tamarind ((you can increase or decrease it as per your taste))
  • 1/4 cup Hot water

For the Dal

  • 1/2 cup yellow pigeon peas lentils (toor dal)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp oil or ghee
  • 2 cups water

For the Vegetables

  • 1 medium Onion (cut in 4)
  • 2 medium Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 1/4 cup Carrot (sliced or roughly chopped)
  • 1-2 Drumsticks (cut in 2-3 inch pieces)
  • 1/4 cup Bottle gourd/Lauki (peel the skin and cut into cubes.)
  • 2-4 Okra/Bhendi (cut both the ends and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. )
  • 1/2 Cucumber/ Dosakaya (peel the skin and cut into cubes.)
  • 1 medium Radish (peel the skin and cut into thick slices)

Tempering

  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1/4 tspn Fenugreek seeds
  • 2-4 Garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 tspn Mustard seeds
  • 1 tspn Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 Dried red chilies
  • 10-12 Curry leaves
  • 1/4 tspn Hing (Asafoetida)

Other Ingredients

  • 1 tbspn Ghee
  • 2 tbsp Sambar powder
  • 1 tsp Red chilly powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves

Instructions
 

For cooking the dal

  • Wash the dal well. Add it to a pressure cooker, along with water, turmeric powder, and oil. Close the lid.
  • Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles or until done. Turn off the heat and let the steam release naturally.
  • Mash with a masher or wire whisk or back of a laddle till smooth. If it's thick, add water and mix. Keep it aside.

To make Vegetable Sambar

  • In a kadai or pot, heat oil. When the oil is hot, add fenugreek seeds, slightly crushed garlic, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Let them crackle and turn aromatic. Make sure not to burn them.
  • Add dry red chilies and curry leaves, fry till the leaves turn crisp. Next, add asafoetida (hing). 
  • Add onions and saute for about 30 seconds. Do not let the onion change color. It should retain the crunch.
  • Now, add the chopped vegetables of your choice and saute for a minute on high flame. 
  • Turn the flame to low and add turmeric powder and give a good mix. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste. Saute on high flame till they turn soft.
  • Next, add red chili powder and sambar powder. Mix well. Saute till the masalas are well cooked. Make sure not to burn the masalas. 
  • Now, add tamarind pulp and water depending on the consistency you need. Let it come to a boil.
  • Add the mashed dal and mix everything well to avoid any lumps.
  • Simmer until the vegetables are cooked but intact. I simmer for a good 15-20 minutes to bring out the best flavours. Do not over cook the vegetables, they should have bite in them.
  • When it’s almost done, add jaggery, coriander powder, and a sprig or few curry leaves. This will add extra flavors to the sambar. Continue to simmer for 5mins more.
  • Add ghee/clarified butter and give a good mix. Lastly, add coriander leaves.
  • Vegetable Sambar is ready. Serve hot South Indian Sambar with hot rice, or idly or vada with extra ghee.

Notes

Add Vegetables of your choice.
You can use only toor dal or mix moong dal and chana dal too.
Increase or decrease tamarind, depending on the tanginess you prefer.
Modify the quantity of Sambar powder as per your taste.

FAQs

What is Sambar powder?

It is a unique blend of selected aromatic spices and lentils such as coriander seeds, dry red chilies, fenugreek seeds, chana dal, udad dal, raw rice grains, curry leaves, cinnamon, hing, black pepper.
All these ingredients are dry roasted on low flame and ground to a fine powder.

How long can we store sambar?

Sambar can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. Due to refrigeration, the consistency thickens. Reheating on a gas top may tend to burn from the bottom. Add hot water while reheating.

Which vegetables can be added to sambar?

Sambar is the best way to clear off vegetables in the fridge. The list of vegetables are
Onions
Tomatoes
Okra (Bhendi)
Drumsticks (Moringa)
French beans
Carrot
Pumpkin (Kaddu)
Yellow cucumber
Bottle gourd (Lauki)
Brinjal (Egg plant)
Beetroot
Radish (Mooli)
Ivy gourd (Tendli)

How to fix my sambar?

It happens that sambar turns out too tangy. In such cases, add more cooked dal and water.
If it’s too spicy, add more tamarind pulp and simmer again.
If it’s salty, add potato cubes. It will absorb the salt.

Which sambar powder brand is best?

Most of the brands available in the market are good. The brands I prefer are 3 Mangoes, MTR, Everest, and Aashirvaad.

Is Sambar healthy?

Definitely yes!
Basic sambar has dal and vegetables which makes the dish protein-rich and loaded with nutrients. Vegetables add fiber and boost immunity.
The combination of lentils and vegetables makes Sambar a perfect balance of protein and nutrients such as fiber, zinc, folic acid, iron, vitamins, and minerals.

What is the difference between sambar and rasam?

The main difference between the two is; Sambar is made with lentils, vegetables, sambar powder and has a thick consistency. Whereas, rasam is made without vegetables and has a watery consistency.

Which tomatoes to select to make Sambar?

For sambar, always use local or desi tomatoes that are round in shape. This variety lends a tangy taste and adds rich red color to the sambar as compared to oval shape hybrid tomatoes.

What is the difference between Sambar and Pappu Charu?

Pappu charu is a simple lentil stew from Andhra cuisine. The process is similar to sambar but is made without sambar powder and vegetables.

What can I use instead of sambar powder?

An alternative for sambar powder is rasam powder. Most of the ingredients used to make both the spice powders are almost the same.

Can I make Sambar without vegetables?

Yes. Use onion, tomatoes and skip the rest of the veggies.



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